WARRNAMBOOL’S summer of sport is approaching.
The Standard has analysed every Warrnambool and District Cricket Association club’s chances and recruits ahead of the first round of play on Saturday.
LAST SEASON: Ninth
INS: Dan Schuppan (Melbourne), Heinrich Joyce (Grampians)
VERDICT: Pencil the Gators in for a return to finals. The club is loaded with quality and with Dan Schuppan at the helm, should be a genuine premiership contender. Heinrich Joyce could be the recruit of the season after years of dominance in the Hamilton District Cricket Association.
COACH SAYS: “We know how strong the competition is but we’ve had great buy-in from our group. We were looking over the list and we think we’ve got 17 division one cricketers at this club.” – Dan Schuppan.
LAST SEASON: 11th.
INS: Mark Murphy, Dan Oakley (East Warrnambool-YCW), Matt Whitten, Brandon Bant (Terang), Shane Murphy, Ben Heard (Port Fairy).
OUTS: Connor Umbers (Yambuk).
VERDICT: The Bulls have strengthened considerably with four division one recruits. Expect a big improvement and a finals contender. Mark Murphy will play a vital role as playing coach alongside brother Nathan.
COACH SAYS: “I always go into the season hopeful of finals and hopefully we’ll be up there. We’ve had some guys come across wanting a bit of change and they’ll be great.” – Mark Murphy.
LAST SEASON: Seventh.
INS: Jeff Fischer (Melbourne), Damith Dewage (Sri Lanka).
OUTS: Ollie King (Woodford).
VERDICT: Led well by Zeb McCarthy, opting for a captain-only approach. Have lost a few junior players pushing into the senior side but remain a force to be reckoned with. Will be pushing hard to break away from mid-table.
COACH SAYS: “We’ve had good numbers but it has been hard to get a good hit-out with the weather. It comes up very quickly and we’re just ready to get out there and go.” – Zeb McCarthy.
LAST SEASON: Fifth.
OUTS: Mark Murphy (Brierly Christ-Church) and others.
VERDICT: Is the dark horse of the competition with the association unsure as to how it will shape up. Has reportedly lost some players, but will fight hard. Also has promising juniors who could get a taste of senior action.
LAST SEASON: 10th.
INS: Ben Compton (England), Jack Holley, Jack Burke, Theo Opperman (junior promotion).
OUTS: Jake Threlfall, Jack Knight (Nestles), Mick Townsend (Pomborneit).
VERDICT: Set to focus on youth in a bid to edge closer to finals. Coaches want more from more experienced troops with bat and ball in hand. Led well and will probably settle in a mid-table spot.
COACH SAYS: “It’ll be about blooding youth. We’ve got the right systems in place and have great juniors. It’s not a rebuild, and we’ll be pushing to win every game we play.” – Josh Stapleton.
LAST SEASON: Sixth.
INS: Alex Strauch (Hawthorn), Mitch Haberecht (Seabrook), Jake Threlfall, Jack Knight (Nestles), Shaun Harland (England).
OUTS: Kyle Humphrys (Bendigo), Sam Carver (England).
VERDICT: Another side poised to climb high and to build on its 2016-17 season. Packed with young talent and ability to boot, and have topped up with senior recruits.
COACH SAYS: “We’re really looking forward to it after a long pre-season. There are lots of young fellas in this team raring to go for the season ahead.” – Geoff Williams.
LAST SEASON: 12th.
INS: Steven Castle, Craig Sargeant (Pomborneit)
VERDICT: Was competitive despite having the youngest list in the competition last season and finishing last. The addition of experience in Castle and Sargeant is going to bolster the club’s cause in a big way. Add talent like Brody Couch and Damon Cooper to the mix and you’ve got a strong side.
COACH SAYS: “We’ve got a lot of young guys who had experience in division one last year, and in winning division three, we’ve got some depth. We’re hoping for a pretty positive year.” – Steven Castle.
LAST SEASON: Third.
OUTS: Sydney Ray (Portland).
VERDICT: Unlucky to be eliminated via wash-out in last season’s semi-final against Woodford. New-look coaching structure, with bowler Jordan Graham to lead the line as captain. Fresh feel around the club and the return of Jason Perera means they’ll be up there again.
COACH SAYS: “We’re comfortable with how we’re going. We haven’t gone out to recruit too heavily or anything, we’ve just been wanting to build on last season. We’re happy with how we’re going.” – Jordan Graham.
LAST SEASON: Second.
INS: Rukshan Weerasine (Sri Lanka)
OUTS: Atulugage ‘Lucky’ Silva (Sri Lanka)
VERDICT: Has a wealth of depth batting and bowling-wise. Still hurting from the disappointment of last season’s grand final loss, but will bounce back with a new import. Still boasts one of the strongest lists in the competition.
COACH SAYS: “Everyone is very excited. We still have the hunger from last season and although we were disappointed, we want to go further. We’ve had 25 to 30 people showing up for training.” – Jayaweera Bandara.
LAST SEASON: Fourth.
OUTS: James Walsh (England).
VERDICT: Has retained the crux of its list but will miss wicketkeeper-batsman James Walsh. Big seasons from spinner Ben Evans and pace bowling pair Mitch and Tom Bowman could propel the Beavers higher. Needs to improve its batting stocks but has the capabilities to do so.
COACH SAYS: “We made the semi-final last season but we’d like to take it that one or two steps further. That has to be everybody’s goal.” – Sam McCosh.
LAST SEASON: Eighth.
INS: Damian Kenny (Mailors Flat), Jack Sunderland (England).
OUTS: Jack Mills (England).
VERDICT: Steadied with the addition of two solid players – the latter a proven overseas cricketer. Kenny will offer a guiding influence to the Panthers’ plethora of young talent. Dedicated coach in Alistair Templeton and the drive to push higher into finals. One to watch.
COACH SAYS: “We wanted to keep this core group together as they’re so young. We didn’t want to go out and headhunt anyone.” – Alastair Templeton.
LAST SEASON: Second.
INS: Will Verco, Ollie King (Dennington), Isaac Fowler (Mortlake).
OUTS: Tommy Jackson (Woodford), Alex Jennings (Northcote).
VERDICT: Three-time reigning premier which is aiming for yet another big scalp and premiership. The Eels remain the most composed outfit in the association and has a host of big-game performers. Going to be tough to knock off the perch.
COACH SAYS: “We’ve had Nick Butters away in England and a few of the footy guys have been busy with that, so we might be a bit underdone at the start of the year. We’re most definitely (going for the premiership).” – John Houston.